You Should Interview A Travel Agent As If You Were Hiring An Employee
Written by: Kuki
Let’s make it clear from the beginning; I believe EVERYONE who books a cruise should use a professional Cruise Travel Agent. Whether you are a first time cruiser, or a veteran cruiser (like me, who thinks you know all you need to know), your interests are going to be best served by doing so.
With the growth of both travel agency’s and cruise line’s presence on the Internet you might think booking a cruise is easy. Booking is easy, but a cruise is definitely not something you should book on your own. It’s not at all like booking your own flights or hotel rooms online, which admittedly is pretty simple, and I do recommend.
On cruise message boards, and in many articles you might read on the topic, you’ll often see the mantra… “Make sure you get a GOOD travel agent”. The obvious question raised in response is… “How do I find one?”.
I’ll be the first to admit that finding the elusive GREAT travel agent can be difficult, and you may pass through a mine field of not so great, to totally awful agents who sell cruises. In my view, a large part of the responsibility for that has to do with the fact that outside of the laws of the land (which require law suits), there is no body that has any enforceable control over the “travel agency industry”. The industry organizations like CLIA or IATA which you often hear about and might think have some control, are simply industry clubs who’s purpose is to promote the industry. They do offer training services to travel agents, offering accreditation… and I do recommend as a very basic minimum, using a travel agent that has a Master Cruise Councillor accreditation. However doing so ensures they at least know something about cruising, but there’s still no regulatory body to go to if you have a problem with them.
The Internet is chock full of cruise message boards, where you can often come across people’s stories about bad to horrific business experiences with travel agents. And it is equally filled with people’s rave reviews, with people raving how “their agents” always get the best prices, and the best free upgrades, and sends generous gifts, while supplying the best service. While there are no doubt many who are posting this information sincerely hoping their experiences will be of benefit to others— there’s also those who post with an agenda. The anonymity of the cruise message boards, makes the opinions posted somewhat suspect. I believe you still have to do some work to verify the opinions as best as you can, before handing your credit card information to book a cruise. Those faced with the task may find it daunting, and time consuming, so therefore make the decision to just book with just anyone, or book directly with the cruise lines. I think that’s a BIG mistake. You are simply gambling with your valuable vacation time; not to mention the money!!
My advice requires you to invest some of your time. You should interview prospective travel agents, just as you would if you were an employer looking to hire a staff person. This doesn’t require sitting down face to face with every interviewee. A combination of Email exchanges and telephone interviews can certainly be just as effective (most travel agents have toll free phone numbers).
You want to find a travel agent who knows their business, knows how to communicate their knowledge, and is willing to spend their time answering all of your questions. You also want to find someone you like; someone who you believe you’ll get along with. Because once you find that GREAT travel agent you will no doubt have a very long term relationship. You’ll value them as a friend; maybe even as member of the family; but most importantly you’ll have a great employee.
Your vacation is your business. Make sure you hire an employee who is dedicated to taking care of your business!
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Posted: April 27th, 2010 under Kuki.